The Blog Slave

When you started blogging, it was pretty liberating, wasn’t it? Finally, a format for expressing your ideas! No barriers of time or distance to an audience. And once you started mixing words with other bloggers (and eventually meeting those people at conferences and tweetups), the energy continued to flow.

slaveUntil you became a blog slave.

Blogging can be a delightful tyranny. As you build an audience, as you see more incoming links, as you check Technorati rankings or see your name for the first time on the Ad Age Power 7,545 list of marketing blogs (OK, they say 150, but it doesn’t seem to stop there…), you begin to feel the pressure. You don’t want to lose your standing. Your momentum. Your ranking. As they say in academia, publish or perish.

Dump that emotional ballast overboard as fast as you can, OK? Because you are not the sum total of your ability to produce. Your value is you, not your writing output.

I read today how blogging friend Beth Harte feels a need to suspend writing on her excellent blog, The Harte of Marketing, for a season. As part of her post, she says this:

As well, I know social media is quid pro quo and while I try my best to keep up with other blogs (reading and commenting), comments on my blog, etc. I am falling WAY short and for that I am terribly sorry. I would completely understand if people stopped commenting/tweeting my stuff.

Well, the fact is, other things really are more important than obeying Master Blog (as Beth discusses in her post), and Beth’s value to me is not tied to her “production.” She is a friend. She has nothing to prove. Her blogging production couldn’t possibly be top-notch anyway if she’s doing it out of a wearied sense of duty. Treadmills aren’t usually where we get into a creative zone.

Beth doesn’t strike me as the type who wants to live like that. She’s a community-builder. And I would like to hope that putting my keyboard aside for a time would not cause the wonderful people in my network to drift away or be less than the great people I know they are. Otherwise, I’ve failed to build and be part of a community. Or I’ve associated with a bunch of artful fakes! (which I don’t believe for a nanosecond).

If you’re strictly building an “audience” for your “production,” then it will be hard to avoid the slavery. Blogging will be a chore. At times, yes, all the creative and interaction work can be a bit of a slog now and again. But let’s never become slaves, trying to produce bricks without straw, and expect that of others. That’s when I quit for good!

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

11 Responses to The Blog Slave

  1. Steve,

    Great points in the post (especially poignant for me was the note about Adage, as I do notice where I fall each day).

    The point that I want to make is that writing every day for me is actually more liberating than enslaving. I think that each person reacts to the need to write differently. For me, I want to write everyday, not because I have to produce a certain number of posts, but because of what it does for my writing overall. I find that when I am writing more, the easier it becomes, and the better my writing tends to be.

    I appreciate those who are able to write often, and understand those who can’t (or choose not to). That is the power of writing, it is always there when you need it and whenever you choose to use it. It is not a fickle friend.

  2. WendyB says:

    Hi Steve:
    What a level-headed post. Thank you for helping relieve me of the guilt of not pounding out one blog post after the other, or one tweet after the other, just so my “numbers” go up.

    My blogging has slowed over the past months – yes I have a day job! – but I like to think it’s because I am selective and focus on quality, not quantity. And sometimes I’m just not inspired to say anything interesting … and who wants to read an uninspired, uninteresting post?

    Thanks for the blogger sanity check!
    Wendy

  3. Fard Johnmar says:

    Steve:

    Great blog post. Yep rankings, accolades and other stuff shouldn’t be the main reason you blog (I would be lying if I said it didn’t play a small part). But, if you find yourself blogging more out of expectation than passion, then it’s time to give up the game.

    Fard

  4. Alan Wolk says:

    Was feeling this too and then reverted to the “I’ll post when I have something to say” method, rather than the “I need to post every day”

    Been very liberating.

  5. Marian Cutler says:

    The challenge is to first recognize ‘the beast that must be fed’ when creating a clog. Then, find peace with the stark reality that it need not be fed every day. In the land of print media, there’s a reason why journalists get a byline once/twice a week….even when it is both life and livelihood there is appreciation for taking a breath and stepping back. Whether prolific and short or profound and long, the slavery is a self imposed imprisonment. And, I wouldn’t, couldn’t argue for a season away. Maybe a middle ground would be a more realistic, balanced timetable for offering POV, insights and overall reactions. In effect, flip the blog slave mentality on its head. It’s still a beast, it must be fed, but it will now adhere to a schedule allowing and others like Beth Harte the room to continue producing amazing work.

  6. I feel that it is difficult especially when you have a FT job and other responsibilities and I can relate to @wendyb. I think this is a great subject and we have to try to still keep it light and fun.

    I admire @BethHarte so much for coming forward and saying that, what a real statement from a real person.

    Great topic and article Steve! I’ve been enlightened and no longer feel alone.

  7. Jody Reale says:

    Agreed. I’ve never understood why anyone would work so hard just to end up back in just another version of the rat race. (But then again, I’ve never had a large audience.)

  8. Beth Harte says:

    Hey Steve! Thanks for expaning on this topic…you have said so eloquently what I couldn’t (hell, I must be tired!). :)

    When I first starting blogging, I didn’t even know what the AdAge150 was…call me utterly shocked when I found out I was above the 150 line! And truth be told, I think that’s when blogging started to fall apart for me. I kept putting pressure on myself to produce content that would keep my blog above 150. And then after working so hard/long on a post I would get notes or tweets that I had typos… It was just too much. I am a marketing nerd with lots of thoughts that I wanted to share, but it was no longer liberating, it was downright painful.

    And you are right, for me it’s about community and less about content.

    I also think it’s important to understand social media guidelines before breaking them. Perhaps I can get away with having a break because I am lucky to be part of a great community and have so many friends that support my decision. Could others do it (whether they are a company or just a person) and be just as okay? I would hope so!

    Right now I just need to put some thought into next steps, have a change of mindset (get back to the writing that was fun), and not to worry so much.

    Thanks again Steve…you’re a good friend!

    Beth

  9. I go through phases. During a up-cycle, I will write insanely long blog posts day after day after day. During a down-cycle, I struggle to find anything to write about and would rather post video or shine a light on someone else’s ideas. Either way, my blog is an outlet for my ideas, so the fact that it reflects my creative cycles doesn’t bother me.

    However, it still bothers me that a url change a year ago effectively killed my Technorati rankings, search rankings and Power 150 status. (And I am now looking at another URL change in the coming year to bring the meter back to zero AGAIN.) So I hear ya.

    Ironically, I would much rather discuss ideas live (on Twitter or in real life) than on my blog… but sometimes, a good 30,000 word post is just what the doctor ordered. ;)

  10. Thanks, everyone, for the great input. After several years of blogging, I’ve kinda settled on the “let the creative flow take me where it will” model. There are very prolific days and weeks, and very dry ones. Disseminating links and news of interest can be more rigidly scheduled, but writing fuller blog posts – I guess that’s one area where I’ve become more existential, not less!

  11. Great info. Isn’t it amazing how many of us need to hear “it is OK to be human”? As for me, one of the reasons I have put off starting a blog (I know, don’t cringe TOO much) is because of the fear of how many posts I will need to write. Thanks for this blog post (and all your others)!

    -Elizabeth

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